“Always, over and over, these days and nights will come, the anxiety, the aversion, the doubt. And I will still live, and I will still love life.”
— Hermann Hesse
A few days ago I caught myself hyperventilating mid-conversation. I had to take a big gulp of water and walk away for a bit.
It’s not the first time my incorrect breathing has gotten me in a bind. I once passed out in a hot yoga class simply because I forgot to breathe. Or rather, instead of really embracing that I was a beginner, I was acutely aware of how I was totally sucking at the poses, how I couldn’t move with the fluidity of others… just too in my head. Sipping at air, anticipating what was to come next instead of just being ok with feeling out of my depth. And then I passed out, and the teacher had to drag me out. It was terribly glamorous.
The same thing happened last week at the dentist. It was a routine clean, but it turned out to be a mini pranayama session as the doctor realised I was holding my breath and therefore, not able to open my mouth for him—which is kind of not what you want when you pay $600 for a dental appointment.
It reminded me of the time I walked into Per Van Spall’s office at Como Shambhala.
Notice how when you entered you spoke in a high pitch with a shallow breath, he said at the end of our session. You were not speaking from your diaphragm.
You were speaking from here, he said, and proceeded to point to his throat.
You were speaking from your ego.
Notice how your voice has deepened.
That moment unlocked something in me. When I speak into the moment with honesty and not fear, something just shifts.
The more we attempt to control a situation and get hysterical or speak in measured words instead of getting down to the core of who we are, the more it somehow manifests in the body. (It explains why you can seethe with anger or shake with rage or tremble with fear).
Ever since that encounter, I’ve been really mindful of listening to my body before reacting and it’s been a lot easier to stop and reframe situations just by paying attention to my breath.
But back to a few days ago where I really was hyperventilating. Knowing what I know, I was instantly able to pause, examine my intentions, and start again. It was actually pretty freeing because you don’t have to wait till tomorrow to start again.
Every moment can be made new by taking one deep breath.
And while you’re at it, if your heart needs a little re-examining, aside from prayer, journalling, meditation, walks in nature, I’ve always found geranium essential oil and ylang-ylang essential oil helpful in terms of bringing you back to center and gently rebalancing moods. There’s truly nothing worse than beating yourself up about something you said, or replaying on loop what can no longer be fixed.
And with that I finally realise why yoga teachers bang on the way that they do about breathing… Hope these suggestions help you.
So here’s the thing. Pray and hope all you like to be a more patient, loving person, but you’re always going to be patient in theory until your wifi slows down or your suppliers don’t respond to emails, or people at pop-ups make snap (mostly entitled or misinformed) judgments, or things just simply don’t go your way.
Patience and lovingkindness need loads of hands-on, real-time practice, especially for someone like me who wants it all. But I don’t just want it all, I wanted it yesterday, and therein lies the tension.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be living in Singapore: land of efficiency, home that I love. But this season, more than ever, I find myself stretched on the patience front in interactions with others but mostly, myself.
It’s like patience is the pigeon pose. And every time I think I’ve got it, that I’m feeling a nice stretch, the teacher (patience) comes around and pushes you deeper and deeper into that posture.
All this circles back to grace. The grace you extend to others when things aren’t going your way, and the grace you give yourself when you’re messing up so royally.
And I’m learning in this season to also live less triggered. Saw a shady post online? Trying to move past it. Overhead a dodgy statement? Breathing through it. Felt like someone you were generous to is just being plain calculative? Trying to find a middle ground. Whatever it is: the goal is to react less. Not all opinions need to be verbalised or expressed.
Even on a cellular level, we know that stress hormone, cortisol, is the body’s persona non grata over prolonged amounts of time. It has your body in a gridlocked flight-or-fight mode. It makes you edgy, creates inflammation in the body, influences weight gain and a whole bunch of non-helpful things. I realised every time I give into these triggers, I see these manifest in my body. A frozen hip here, an eczema flare up there.
I guess it’s about recognising how you’re feeling in that moment. Acknowledging that it sucks and then deciding one of several things:
a) Save your fucks. This issue won’t matter in a year and it doesn’t warrant a response. I generally recommend saving your fucks for big things that matter – the environment, equality, female empowerment, not stealing other people’s creative work & passing it off as your next brainwave, not doing or accepting dervative work. That sort of thing
b) You need to respond but not before taking time to really process your next move. Pause, and think about how your reacting is going to play out 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 years from now. Pause so that you can regroup and be really intentional with your words. Mostly so you don’t ‘rain down fucks’ on someone as Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck puts it, but also so that you don’t unnecessarily burn any bridges in the heat of anger, as I’ve learned before. (My lessons are expensive)
c) trying to find a conciliatory middle ground and seeing how grace can be extended
So here’s what I’ve begun doing since late last year with varying degrees of success: I see you and your shadiness, your attempt to hurt because you are hurt or insecure, and possibly envious (though you don’t know it just yet—because see, what haters do, is hate on you, then copy), and simply, look away without judgement.
In the immortal words of Coco Chanel, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”
I focus my joy and the light of my being, and give myself to what really matters. I diffuse. I move on. You’re not living rent free in here *places hand on head and over heart simultaneously*
Hypothalamus, you can relax. Tell all your other friends: the adrenals, the limbic system and the like that you are safe and not under threat. You are whole. Nothing is going to get you down.
And remember, you’ll never shine throwing shade. And impatience with yourself or a situation, is not going to get you to where you want to be any faster.
“You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones you see building one another up, instead of tearing each other down.”
GRATEFUL for all the strong and inspiring women who have held space for us, encouraged us, and walked us through times when it would have been easier to go it alone. Instead of competing, they inspired us to expand our hearts and field of vision.
LOVING slow Sunday afternoons with my lapis lazuli x rutilated quartz gemstone elixirs which I’ve been drinking for the past several days.
LISTENING to these sublime tracks that just give my soul so much rest.
CURRENTLY BURNING Nightshade, our new blend made of the most gorgeous organic lavender, patchouli and other proprietary essential oils. I’ve been burning this for over a year, and use it primarily when super jetlagged or when I’m over-tired and yet can’t seem to stop that internal chatter & turn down. I liken it to the comforting deep voice of a father or loved one telling you, “Right. Time for bed, you.”
“If you ever get the chance to treat them the way they treated you, no matter how painful it was, I hope that you choose to walk away and do better.”
– Nawja Zebian
If there’s one thing that has been proven time and again, at least in my life, is that whatever you put out there comes back to you both good and bad.
Sometimes you’re the toxic one. The jealous one. The manic and bitter one. And sometimes, you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s bad day. You’re part of whatever distorted reality they’ve projected out of their own deep fears and insecurities.
My only honest-to-God reaction (as it was recently) was, I send you peace. I send you light.
Unlike other times, I gave myself a deadline to get over it because I’ve learned that you simply can’t carry other people’s warped opinions and projections of you around. That’s your opinion, but it isn’t my reality. And so, I simply reject what I need to for my own wellbeing, creativity, and lightness of being. Because, who wants another burden?
I let myself feel whatever I needed to feel: accused for no reason, a bit indignant, definitely a lot of pity for that person, but I definitely told myself I’d be over it by lunch. And I was. I called down a spiritual caim around myself, a caim in the form of a prayer, fried chicken, beauty shopping, and a really good laugh with friends.
You must be in a lot of pain to judge me (ergo yourself) in this way. My heart goes out to you.
Life’s funny in that we always get to walk in the other person’s shoes eventually. Judge you today, understand you tomorrow. So, I know you’ll understand sooner or later.
Until then, I pray for peace and light for you. “I’m no longer on bad terms with anyone. I’m declaring it. Judge me by yourself. Good luck with the hating. I wish you the best.”
“There is nothing more classy or powerful than showing forgiveness and grace to someone who does not deserve it.”
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”
― G.K. Chesterton
We’ll be taking a little break over the New Year to realign our thoughts, dream new dreams, and perhaps even press delete on ideas that aren’t really working out for us. You can count us to be back at the store & ready to ship orders from 9 January 2017.
Greatest lessons learnt in 2016:
Where you see is where you go
“Don’t do what makes you happy. Do what makes you great” – Charlie Day
Your thoughts and attitudes shape your health. All those unresolved feelings of anger, hurt, envy, unforgiveness, fear, guilt, heartbreak… they do nothing but turn inwards and hurt you in the end. This year I discovered just how much of a toll they take on your wellbeing. If you’re feeling stuck and quite literally sick and bothered, I hope you’ll get a chance to sit down and get real uncomfortable with those feelings so that you can work through them. Hopefully, you will find yourself so tired of having to carry this burden that you can finally forgive yourself, forgive others, and let it go.
Perfectionism, as Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book Big Magic (one of my favourite reads this year), is the couture version of fear.
And finally, it’s always so much better to focus on your own shit and grow what you have, rather than wishing for more and neglecting your ready resources.
What did you learn this year?
Ultimately, we couldn’t have gotten through 2016 without your support. Thank you for your friendship, your orders, your lovely posts and comments – they keep us going.